ACT News

Young people cling to gender stereotypes that could lead to domestic violence: report

Youth workers and anti-domestic violence campaigners believe early education for young people on gender and relationships will be a vital step in driving down rates of violence in the community.

While young people in Australia are aware domestic violence was prevalent, many still cling to gender stereotypes which could lead to violent relationships down the track, new research from the University of NSW has shown

New research shows 76 per cent of young people believe domestic violence is common or very common in Australia.
New research shows 76 per cent of young people believe domestic violence is common or very common in Australia.  

The report, released on Thursday, explored attitudes towards domestic and dating violence among 3000 Australians aged 16 to 25 and was prepared for anti-domestic violence movement White Ribbon Australia and Youth Action NSW.

Its findings have prompted the ACT's youth workers to renew calls for greater support for educational programs in territory schools. 

Behind Closed Doors
Behind Closed Doors 

The survey revealed 76 per cent of young people believed domestic violence was common or very common in Australia. 

About 19 per cent of males surveyed agreed men were supposed to be the head of the household and take control of their relationship, compared to 4 per cent of females. 

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Fifteen per cent of males agreed that men were "usually better at more things than women", as opposed to 3 per cent of females. 

And 28 per cent of males believed women liked men who were in charge of the relationship, compared to 11 per cent of women.

Young people surveyed felt the most common causes of domestic violence were disrespectful attitudes toward women, use of alcohol and other drugs, growing up in a violent household, the belief that men should be in control inside the home, and mental health problems.

Youth Coalition ACT director Emma Robertson said: "The fact that 76 per cent see that domestic violence is an issue in the community is positive, but it's sad it's so prevalent. 

"And it's incredibly sad that it's taken women losing their lives, and children losing their lives, to draw attention to that."

Ms Robertson said the research reinforced there was a significant need for youth workers to "get in early and talk to young people" about healthy relationships and gender stereotypes.

"The fact that one in five young men think that they need to take control and take charge in a relationship suggests we've still got a way to go in breaking down gender stereotypes."

Ms Robertson echoed a call from the YWCA Canberra for an early intervention program that could fill a gap left by the organisation's Respect, Communicate, Choose initiative on relationships, for which funding ended in late 2013. 

White Ribbon Australia chief executive Libby Davies said the survey showed only 54 per cent of young people got information about domestic violence from their school.

"Schools must play a key role in educating young people and breaking the cycle of domestic violence ... there is a critical need for collective action.

"It is everyone's responsibility to make this happen: schools, workplaces, sporting clubs, politicians, and local communities alike must all play a role in ending men's violence against women."

Ms Robertson agreed stamping out ideas about gender which could lead to domestic violence required a concerted community response.

"I think schools are really well-placed because they give so much of that formative education, but it really is up to everyone in the community to stand up and think about how they're modelling healthy relationships, including how parents react with each other."

Older men particularly needed to sit down and talk to younger males about what healthy relationships with women looked like, Ms Robertson said. 

"The sense I get is that young people are crying out for us to talk to them about this and they lap it up, and sometimes I wonder if in our risk aversion if we've made it more difficult to talk to them."